Whether you want to share your riding experiences or just need to give someone a lift every once in a while, carrying a passenger is part of being a motorcyclist. However, taking along a passenger isn’t as simple as just hopping on and hitting the road. Riding with a passenger incorporates many aspects that you normally don’t deal with – differences in handling, communicating with each other and more. However, with a little foresight and practice, taking along passengers is no problem at all.

The Excitement of Riding Two Up

How to Ride a Motorcycle with a Passenger

You should never ride with a passenger if either of you feel too uncomfortable with the idea. Riding a motorcycle is inherently more dangerous than other vehicles, and there’s no need to compound that with a driver or passenger who is too tense. But if you’re both excited for the ride, here are a few tips to help you out.

Preparation

Everything starts with a preparation stage, and the same is true for riding with a passenger. Make sure that everything is in line before you ever mount the bike.

Understanding the Law

The first thing you need to do is make sure that you can legally carry a passenger on your bike. While every state has its own motorcycle laws, here are a couple of the most common ones which relate to passengers:

  • Seats must be designed to accommodate the passenger.
  • Securely attached passenger footrests must be present.

Two Men on a Honda Goldwing – a Motorcycle Designed for Carrying a Passenger

Some states also have helmet laws. These apply to passengers equally as much as drivers, so make sure to understand what they are.

Sometimes age laws come into play too. Passengers may not be allowed on a motorcycle if they are younger than a certain age. Furthermore, you may not be allowed you carry a passenger if you are below a certain age or if you have only had your license for a short period of time.

Make sure you understand your state’s laws before you decide to carry a passenger with you. If you’re unsure, check with your state’s DMV.

Adjusting Bike Setup

As it is, your bike’s setup will be optimized for a single person in most cases. This doesn’t mean you can’t tweak it a bit to accommodate the extra weight. Your owner’s manual will be able to give specific guidance for your bike, but the two things you should watch out for in particular are the tire pressure and suspension. These are both easily adjustable and can make quite a difference in your ride.

Yamaha Passenger Floorboards with MountsEnsure that the foot pegs or floorboards for the passenger are folded down. On some bikes, they might not be a permanent fixture and must be installed. Of course, make sure that the passenger is tall enough to reach the footrests when properly installed – if not, you really shouldn’t let them ride on Mustang Wide Touring Vintage Motorcycle Seats 2-Piecethe back of your bike.

If you don’t already have a seat installed that can accommodate two people, make sure that you get one. Many of these are called two-up or pillion seats. Even if your existing setup already has a passenger seat, you might want to look into upgrading it for comfort if you plan on riding with passengers a lot. Cobra Standard Sissy BarExcept for certain touring bikes and cruisers, passenger seats usually aren’t designed to be quite as comfortable as the primary seat.

You might also look into installing a sissy bar as well. A sissy bar is another name for a passenger backrest and can add a little extra comfort.

Gearing Up

You might understand the importance of wearing proper safety gear, but there’s a good chance that your passenger won’t if they aren’t a motorcyclist themselves.

Speed and Strength SS1500 Off the Chain Motorcycle HelmetSo what sort of gear are we talking about? First and foremost, they must have a helmet. This is the most important piece of gear anyone can wear, and it’s literally a lifesaver. It’s also got to fit – a helmet that flies off in a crash offers zero protection when it’s needed most. If your passenger doesn’t own a helmet, you need to invest in another one. Even if you live in a state without helmet laws and choose not to wear a helmet yourself, you might want to reconsider when you’re carrying a passenger with you. After all, it isn’t just your life that you’re taking in your hands; it’s theirs as well.

After a helmet, you’ll also need to educate them about wearing proper clothing such as a jacket or riding pants. If you have extra motorcycle gear, you might even want to lend it to them since there’s a good chance they won’t have something that offers the same level of protection.

Mounting the Bike

Once you’re ready to go, it’s time to mount the bike. If your passenger has never ridden a motorcycle before, they may not know the best way to climb on. But if you’ve never carried along a passenger before, you might be unprepared for their attempt as well!

What You Need to Do

Make sure that you get on the bike first. If you keep your motorcycle in a garage, roll it out before your passenger tries to get on. Garages have a slick surface and tight spacing – not the ideal environment to learn how to take a passenger along with you.

Raise the stand. Start the bike and brace it by keeping your feet securely on both sides. If you are on an uneven surface, hold the brake lever. Tell your passenger to go ahead and get on. Make sure they understand to wait until you give the okay. The last thing you want is to have them mount before you’re prepared, only to find your bike lying on the ground because of the sudden imbalance. Similarly, they should never dismount without your permission.

Just as you should always be the first to mount, you should also be the last to dismount. It is up to you to keep your bike stable when your passenger gets on and off.

Ready for a Passenger

What They Need to Do

When you’re ready for your passenger to get on, make sure both of your feet are firmly planted. It will help you maintain balance while new weight is shifted around on the bike. When you tell them to climb on, don’t forget to warn them if the bike is hot. The exhaust pipes will burn them if they aren’t careful.

passenger seats are higher than the driver seat, so there’s a good chance that your passenger won’t be able to reach the ground when sitting on the bike. In order to safely mount, they should place their left foot on the left peg and climb on, quickly placing their right foot on the right peg once they are mounted. A good comparison is mounting a horse since horses are so tall that no one would try to climb on one while keeping one foot on the ground.

Balance begins with mounting. Ask them to push themselves toward the bike rather than pull the bike towards them. This will help keep the bike upright. Encourage them to place their hands on your shoulders if it makes it easier for them.

Once they’re on, take a moment to check their riding gear or clothing to make sure that it doesn’t come in contact with the drive chain or belt. It’s also important to make sure that the foot pegs are spaced far enough away from the rear tire that no passenger clothing gets snagged in there as well.

Riding Position

If you don’t offer any instruction on their riding position, your passenger may not know exactly what to do. Riding a motorcycle isn’t something that comes intuitively to everyone. Take a minute and use these tips to instruct them on how to ride as a passenger.

How to Hang On

There is a good chance your passenger may not know how to hold onto the bike. It is best if they place their arms around your waist or place their hands on your hips. There are several inherent advantages of this. For one thing, it assists with the center of balance of the bike – keeping them close to you will prevent problems with steering that could occur if they sit too far back. It also keeps them in tune with your movements. And most importantly, it’s the most secure way for them to hang on.

Motorcycle Passenger Holding the Driver Around the Waist

Some touring motorcycles include hand rails, and these are usually okay. However, in the beginning, you might still want your passenger to hold onto you until they get used to the movement of the bike.

If your motorcycle has a sissy bar, they might be tempted to hold onto it instead if they aren’t comfortable with the idea of holding onto you. Generally speaking, this isn’t a good idea. There isn’t as much security and balance in holding onto a sissy bar as there is holding onto the driver. If absolutely necessary, it might be an acceptable possibility – if you have a sissy bar installed. If you don’t, then there is no other option.

Leaning in Turns

Most people are used to driving in a vehicle, where wheels manage all of the turning. Very few are prepared for a motorcycle, where much of the turning is managed by leaning. Most people do not feel comfortable leaning into a turn at first, and this will likely be one of the most frightening aspects of riding on a motorcycle.

Your passenger may have a tendency to lean out of a turn. This could make handling your bike extremely different for you, as the more you lean into the turn, the more your passenger will lean out of it. Explain in advance that leaning is a natural and normal part of turning on a bike. Tell them that it’s normal if they feel uncomfortable with it, but they should never lean out of the turn because it decreases your ability to control the bike.

If they are not comfortable leaning into a turn, that’s fine. They do not need to lean with you. In fact, that might be better in the beginning since leaning into a turn too much is just as dangerous (if not more so) as leaning out of it.

The best advice you can give them is to just hold on to you and try to keep their body in line with yours. That way, when you do the leaning, they will naturally follow. To help them do this, they should keep their head over your shoulder on the side of the turn. So if you’re turning right, their head should be over your right shoulder. If you’re turning left, their head should be over your left shoulder. This will help them overcome the counterintuitive feelings they have about leaning.

A Rider and Passenger Leaning in a Slight Turn

Their Feet and Legs

Their feet should stay on the footrests at all times. Even when you are stopped at an intersection, they must keep their feet on the pegs. You might want to explain to them beforehand that when you are about to cross an obstacle, if they stand up ever so slightly on the foot pegs, they will able to absorb the bump with their legs.

Aside from their feet, they also need to know where to place their legs. Depending on what sort of bike you ride, they might be able to use their knees to help hang on to you. Make sure that they are careful to avoid any hot parts – particularly the exhaust, if it’s in a location where they might be inclined to place their leg next to it.

Moving Around

Your passenger needs to understand that their movement affects the handling of the bike, and if you aren’t prepared for it as the driver, it could be dangerous. They should not make sudden movements of any sort, and they need to keep moving around to a minimum. Even at a stop, if you are unprepared for their movements, it can unbalance the bike and topple it.

If you brake suddenly, the momentum will force their weight into your body. In an emergency situation, they can brace themselves by placing their hands against the tank if they are particularly heavy and pose a danger of pushing you over the handlebars. (This is another reason why it is best if they have their arms around your waist or their hands on your hips.)

Passenger Comfort

When it comes to taking a passenger along with you for a ride, there are two comfort levels that you need to remain aware of: physical and emotional. Don’t ignore either one if you want them to truly enjoy the ride with you.

Physical Comfort

Since many people usually ride solo, most bikes are designed first and foremost for the driver. Any accommodations for the passenger are secondary and may even seem like an afterthought. This means that your passenger will get uncomfortable sooner than you. Sometimes there are a few things that you can do to improve your passenger’s situation, such as adding a backrest.

However, unless your passenger is a fellow motorcyclist, they will likely feel more discomfort even if their seat is as comfortable as yours. Why? Most people aren’t used to the body position required to ride a motorcycle. It’s the same situation as riding a horse, a bicycle or anything. They will get sore before you do. Keep this in mind, and if you’re taking an extended trip, make sure that you plan breaks that are more frequent and in longer duration than you normally do.

Two Men on a Motorcycle at Dusk

Emotional Comfort

If your passenger hasn’t ridden a motorcycle before, they will likely be nervous and possibly afraid. Keep this in mind, even if they don’t say anything. Do not start driving until your passenger confirms that they are ready. In the beginning, you should take everything slower than you normally would – especially the first few turns.

Tell them that it is not your intention in any way to frighten them or make them feel uncomfortable. If they want you to slow down, do so. If they feel more control over the experience, they will be less nervous. Your goal is to give them the best riding experience possible.

Communication

When it comes to motorcycles, there is always the issue of communication. At very low speeds, you and your passenger might be able to talk to one another without too much difficulty. But the faster you go, the more difficult this can become – and it can be practically impossible on a highway. Another thing to consider is that even when you can still hear your passenger, they may not be able to hear you. Their mouth is much closer to your ear than the other way around. You both need to understand and anticipate this if you don’t want to get frustrated.

A Motorcycle Rider and Passenger on the Highway

Communication by Signals

Instead, come up with a number of signals that your passenger can use to communicate with you. These can be things like pats or squeezes, just as long as they don’t interfere with your driving (such as anything that might startle you or decrease your arm movement). You can use nods of the head to acknowledge, agree or disagree since they will be able to see your helmet.

Don’t forget that aside from location, quantity can also be an indicator. For example, one tap can mean one thing while two taps can mean another.

Here are a few messages you might want to devise signals for:

  • Please slow down.
  • You can speed up.
  • I need to stop at the next gas station.
  • I need to stop immediately.
  • Look at your left.
  • Look at your right.

Communications Devices

Scala Rider G9 PowersetModern technology affords plenty of conveniences, especially when it comes to communicating to one another on a motorcycle. A number of high-tech devices are available that make it easy to speak to your passenger and vice versa. Some touring motorcycles include these features stock with the bike, but even if yours doesn’t, you can get something that fits right in your helmet and is completely self-contained.

If you have communications devices, make sure that they are calibrated to function with one another and that you both know how to operate them.

Handling the Bike

The added weight from your passenger will change the way that your bike handles. The main thing is that it will perform more slowly with just about everything – accelerating, braking, etc. Other handling characteristics may be altered as well. For example, using your rear brake will likely provide more stopping power.

Because of these changes, you should not drive it the same way that you do when you ride solo. If you need to, think of it as a different bike altogether because it will certainly handle like a different one.

Here are a few tips to consider when you ride with a passenger:

  • Allow more time for braking and accelerating.
  • Allow more time and space for passing other vehicles.
  • Be extra cautious when turning.
  • Avoid riding at high speeds.

Practice

You should only carry a passenger with you if you are already an experienced rider. (That’s why some states do not permit motorcyclists to carry passengers unless they’ve been licensed for a year.) So the most important thing you can do is practice riding. If you’re already an experienced rider, then it’s time to practice carrying a passenger.

The best way to practice riding with a passenger is with a fellow motorcyclist, someone who understands the way a bike handles and will have the same tendencies that you do (such as leaning in turns). Begin in a parking lot where you can afford to make mistakes. Once you gain confidence, you can move into low-traffic situations. Then you can move into a high-traffic environment. Once you feel that you can comfortably and safely carry a passenger, you can invite non-motorcyclists to ride with you.

An Empty Parking Lot

Conclusion

Riding your bike with a passenger will open up exciting new adventures for both of you. You can finally share what your motorcycle means to you with others. And as long as you both know what to expect in advance and can anticipate it, even your first ride together can be an enjoyable one.

Do you already ride with passengers? In the comments, share who you ride with along with some of your most memorable moments. Don’t forget to share any of your own tips that we might have missed!

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